Big World, Bigger Aspirations

Back in Richmond a few weeks ago for a wedding, I stopped at the office building of my first “big girl” job. I remember looking out across the urban landscape from the balcony fresh out of college, recognizing the opprichmondortunities that flourished in the city below and being energized to take on the world.  But there were a lot of lessons that naïve and worry-free, wide-eyed 22-year-old would learn along the way.  Some were difficult but all were critical in getting me to where I am today – a place I know would make that young girl proud.

Don’t let the opinion of others dictate your destiny. You and you alone possess the power to unlock your full potential; the unwarranted words and doubts of others hold no merit.  Don’t look at the naysayers, and those who try to put you down, as hurdles but rather as propellers pushing you forward to your greatest achievements.

Don’t spend so much time looking forward that you forget to live in the moment. If you’re always on the go, planning your next adventure, you might miss whatever is right in front of your eyes. Each moment we have on this earth is a gift – feel it, embrace it – and don’t let it slip through your fingertips.

You need to let go – of people, of things, of circumstances dragging you down. It can be hard to separate from certain possessions, memories or relationships because they seem so engrained into who you are as a person but letting go of the old makes room for the new – and that might just be better than anything you’ve imaged before.

Listen. In a world full of noise, drown out the chatter. We’ve each taken different roads to get to where we are but there may be others who took similar steps in the days and years before you, and those individuals may have a takeaway that will help you on your journey. Lend an ear and you could learn a valuable lesson. Take a walk to the beach and listen to the water crashing on the shore. Strike up a conversation with a stranger and listen to their life story. Listen to your friends. Listen to your preacher. Listen to your body. And most importantly, listen to your heart.

Radiate kindness. It’s contagious and it will always come back around. Be the source of a smile on someone else’s face. This one applies not just to people you know, but those you don’t as well, as they have the potential to pass it on to others you may never touch.

The world is big, but so are your ambitions. Let no one, including yourself, stand in the way of your dreams.

Post-grad guidelines: letter to my 22-year-old self

I honestly can’t fathom the fact that it’s been seven years since I walked across that University of South Carolina stage and took hold of my degree.  Time moves so quickly and seems to speed up even faster as each day passes.  This week marks a milestone for me, seven years since starting my career at Wireside (!), and with that, it only seems appropriate to reflect upon the lessons learned in these post-college years.  Looking back, here are some takeaways I have for my 22-year-old self.

Priorities will shift.  Right now, you’re straight out of the college gates, ready to tackle the world.  Slow down.  Focus.  Take time to explore your passions.  Many of the things that motivate you today will be mere memories in the days of tomorrow.  You don’t need to craft a game plan for the rest of your life, but you must make choices now that will keep you on the path you inevitably want to follow.  Connect with mentors that can guide you and watch you grow along the way.

Chances should be taken.  This one is tough for you, a person that feels most at ease in a safety net of the familiar.  But regret is a strong force, one that will serve up a constant reminder of moves you did not make.  Taking a leap of faith, no matter how difficult it may be, can turn out to be the best decision you’ve ever made.  Go against your internal grain and force yourself out of the comfort zone.

You’re unknowingly taking those you love for granted.  Although you’ve lost friends and family members, you still don’t fully grasp the true impact of loss.  As you grow, times will come when those close to you are no longer a part of your life here on earth.  And the stories of lives taken too soon, even those you don’t know personally, will touch you on a deeper level and help you to realize that not a moment in life should be taken for granted.  Every hug, every conversation, could be your last so embrace tightly and connect deeply.

Friendships will fade.  Not all of them.  Some will pass the test of time.  But others, the bonds you thought could never be broken, will prove to have been held together by a Velcro that slowly loses cohesiveness over time.  This will be a harsh realization, but it’s often a shift where no one is at fault.  Life will take you to different places and accelerate at different moments; you may not always be able to keep up with one another.  As you grow, you’ll learn that certain people were a part of your life at a certain time because that’s when you needed them, and they needed you, most.  They played a role in making you into the person you’re becoming and it is okay if they’re not by your side to see the final product.  You’ll carry a piece of them with you, always.  A friendship, even one that once seemed so strong but is now visible only in a stack of old photos, will still be an important friendship when you look back at your journey through life.

You’re in for an amazing adventure filled with limitless opportunities, unwavering love from those around you and unwritten storylines.  Just don’t sit back and enjoy the ride because you’re the one in the driver’s seat.